Coach’s son proves Ryan right

first_imgCHICAGO — For some reason, Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan envisioned UNLV defeating his team long before Sunday.After the NCAA adopted a rule allowing fifth-year players to transfer and play immediately last April, Ryan just knew a guy like Runnin’ Rebels senior guard Kevin Kruger was going to beat his team.”I’m one of those hundreds of coaches out there that tried to stop the rule of fifth-year guys transferring,” Ryan said. “I said, ‘A guy like Kevin Kruger — he can play. Heck, we’re going to end up playing one of those guys, and they’re going to beat us.’ I said that a year ago.”Kruger saw it too.Following his departure from Arizona State, Kruger said he made his decision not only to play for his father — UNLV head coach Lon Kruger — but also because he knew the Rebels could make a run in the tournament.”I’m sure you can find one of those Vegas papers early on where I predicted to go to the tournament and make some noise,” Kruger said. “I’ve been saying it all year and more ears have been listening as the year’s gone on, but I believed as soon as I got there.”Kruger scored only four points in the first half and went scoreless for much of the second half, but he took over when it counted. With the Badgers making a run with less than 10 minutes remaining in the game, Kruger answered with three straight 3-pointers. Later, he knocked down another 3-pointer in which he was fouled by Wisconsin’s Kammron Taylor. Kruger made the free throw to give UNLV an eight-point lead, one it would not let slip away despite Taylor’s last-minute run of his own.Kruger finished the game with 16 points.For Lon Kruger, watching his son Kevin Kruger make some late-game heroics — instead of one his other players — was something special.”You try to think of it as we need baskets, whether it’s Kevin or Michael (Umeh) or Wink (Adams), we don’t really care at that point,” Lon Kruger said. “But when he does it, as he’s done several times, it’s a little extra special feeling.”And this season has been a little extra for Kevin Kruger. Playing for his father and being around his family in their Las Vegas home bring up memories of his childhood. Growing up, Kruger used to sit on the bench when his father made tournament runs when coaching Florida and Kansas State.Now, it’s happening all over again. Except this time Kruger’s playing on the floor, not sitting on the bench.”It feels very similar to the feelings I had when [he was] winning games in the tournament back when I was not a player,” Kruger said. “Watching a member of your family be happy is one of the greatest feelings in the world. … Just to be a part of that and have something to do with that — it feels really good.”Wins or losses are irrelevant to the experience I’ve had this year,” he added.Despite his opposition to the new rule that has since been rescinded, Ryan admires the Krugers’ on-court relationship. Ryan coached both of his sons at UW-Platteville and his son Will currently sits on Wisconsin’s bench as Director of Men’s Basketball Operations.”How about that. Having a relationship like that on the court … having that be so special for Lon,” Ryan said. “My hat goes off to him and that relationship.”last_img

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